Ohio GOP Senate candidates run on federal abortion bans despite huge loss last year

Three Ohio Republicans in the race for the U.S. Senate have been eyeing abortion bans and federal restrictions in recent debates, despite voters’ decision last year to adopt abortion rights in the state’s constitution.

Abortion has become a hot-button topic for the Republican candidates looking to unseat the vulnerable incumbent Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) in one of the most competitive races this year. Last year, Ohioans approved Issue 1, an amendment enshrining reproductive rights in the state’s constitution.  

Republican Ohio Sec. of State Frank LaRose speaks during an election night watch party Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, in Columbus, Ohio.
Republican Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose speaks during an election night watch party, Nov. 8, 2022, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo)

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, who entered the race last year as the Republican front-runner, supported banning abortion after six weeks with exceptions to saving the life of the mother, but not in cases of incest or rape.

“I support doing things that we can do to reaffirm the sanctity of life,” LaRose told reporters following a Republican debate Monday. “And I look forward to that conversation in the U.S. Senate, but I’m not going to litigate here how many weeks, how many exceptions.”

Conservative businessman Bernie Moreno, who garnered endorsements from former President Donald Trump, former GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, and other prominent U.S. senators, has supported a 15-week federal abortion ban with exceptions for rape and incest.  

“Bernie is proudly pro-life and believes we can unify this country around ending late term abortion once and for all,” Reagan McCarthy, a spokeswoman for Moreno, told NBC News. “He doesn’t believe in letting the perfect be the enemy of the good and his goal is to protect as many babies as possible.”

State Sen. Matt Dolan, who was the first to challenge Brown for his seat, said at a January debate that he didn’t want abortion to be a federal issue and accused his rivals of being “all over the place” on abortion. 

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“What I have said is I don’t think Ohioans fully understood that they voted for the opportunity for late-term abortions,” Dolan told the outlet. “So if late-term abortion becomes the norm around the United States, then I do think the federal government should look at getting involved.”  

On March 19, Ohio voters will decide which of the three Republican candidates will face off against Brown in November. Brown’s lead over his potential Republican opponents has been shrinking, according to recent polls, which show Brown at 38% and with Dolan at a close 37%.

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